As you will probably be aware, Chelsea broke Barcelona-forward Pedro’s buy-out clause last week, and he has now signed for the London club. This meant luring him away from Old Trafford, after the Spaniard had been linked heavily with Manchester United since the start of the transfer window.
Pedro displayed his quality as he registered a goal and an assist on his debut wearing the blue shirt. Although Manchester United claim that they had lost interest in the player, I find this hard to believe, since the cost for a player who has been an integral part at a Barcelona side (who has arguably been the strongest in European Football of this generation) stands at just £21 million.
What exactly is it that Pedro would have brought to Van Gaal’s side?
Pedro has consistently managed an impressive goals return at his many years for the Catalan club. It’s these goals from midfield that can often make a huge difference over the course of the season, new signing Memphis Depay is likely to make a strong contribution, but a variety of sources that can register their names on the scoresheet is important. This will allow the side to know a couple of man-marking jobs cannot sufficiently reduce the attacking prowess the Red Devils possess. The World Cup winner links up with other forwards, he gets behind defences using his pace, which allows more space for the more central players to take shots and spray passes.
Tactically having Pedro playing on the right hand side of the three attacking midfielders in Van Gaal’s 4-2-3-1 would have allowed Mata to come inside to a more central role. But since Wayne Rooney fits into to more of the ‘false nine’ role when leading the line by himself, having Memphis and Pedro out wide who could into the centre forward role when Rooney drops deep would greatly improve attacking fluidity, which is a key trait for top sides in the modern game.
Who Should Manchester United look to as alternative signings for the Spaniard?
Manchester United have been linked with some big names this summer; Muller, Bale and more recently Neymar all come under this category. However I find it hard to call these alternatives to Pedro. For one, all these players would sign at a near record-breaking fee and Pedro was relatively cheap for a player of his calibre, playing in the position he does. Also, these kind of signings are rare. And therefore, it is hard for me to say that United should sign one of the top attacking players in Europe, since more often than not, this is near-enough impossible. Another player that fans have said they would like to see put on the red shirt next season is Marco Reus. Unfortunately for United fans I again find this doubtful as the German signed a five-year contract extension, signalling for the foreseeable future the footballer will reside in Dortmund.
The above Squawka comparison matrix shows four potential players that could be brought in to Old Trafford as alternatives to Pedro.
Juan Cuadrado *
With one winger coming into Stamford Bridge, it is thought that another will have to exit in order to make way for the newcomer, and it is thought that man is Juan Cuadrado. Cuadrado only signed for The Blues in the January transfer window last season, however after failing to impress over the last eight months, it is likely Mourinho will let him go. Although Manchester United fans may not like the sound of bringing in Chelsea’s rejects, I believe that Cuadrado is not a player who should be overlooked. Over his time at Fiorentina, followed with spectacular performances for Colombia in the World Cup, Cuadrado was though as one of the best up-and-coming players in world football. If given a run in with the starting line up, it’s possible the flying-winger could rediscover old form and shine in the red of United.
Southampton have confirmed that Manchester United have shown interest in the Senegalese. Southampton have also said that the player is not for sale. But if the fee was large enough, I’m sure The Saints could be swayed by the money. For me, Mane would be an excellent capture for the club, he’s proven he can play in the Premier League, he scores goals and he will offer fluid movement, getting between lines and pushing forward in the frontline when the time is right. Another statistic which should not be ignored is his tackles per game. Winning the ball in the opposition’s third leads to goals being scored at a high ratio, and is probably the most overlooked skill in attacking players. Manchester United fans may not see Mane as a big enough name for the club, but I firmly believe that if Van Gaal could sway him from St Mary’s they would be pleasantly surprised.
Julian Draxler is the least prolific player on the shortlist in terms of goals scored. Although his scoring record is not an adequate reflection of his ability. At just 21 years of age the Schalke prospect could fill attacking midfield roles for many years at Old Trafford. As the Draxler’s potential develops into the player’s ability, it is likely the rate that the German starts hitting the back of the net on a regular basis. Draxler beats more completes more take on per game than any other player on the shortlist, this is due to his ferocious pace and intricate ball control. He is one of the most exciting young players in football at the moment and should definitely be considered by Van Gaal as he looks for a fresh winger to bring into the side.
The final player listed in the comparison matrix is french-man Antoine Griezmann. Griezmann has scored more goals per game than any other player on the list, however, it should be noted that this is partly due to him playing in a more central role since leaving Real Sociedad for Atletico Madrid. Griezmann is very clinical, and if Van Gaal is predominantly looking for goals, then the French international is probably his man.
Despite signs that Manchester United have been looking for a new wide player, with reported bids being rejected for the likes of Muller and Mane. Some Devil’s fans claim they have enough with Memphis, Januzaj, Mata, Young and others. However, the star quality declines relatively quickly after venturing deeper into the squad past those four players. Even if you do believe those players are of a sufficient standard to push for the Premier League title, with mid-week games in the Premier and Champions League, I believe it’s a necessity that due to the effects injury and fatigue will have on the side, that another truly quality attacking player is brought in before the end of the window.
* Update 25 August 2015: Since this piece was published Juan Cuadrado has completed a season-long loan move to Juventus.
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£43m for Toby Alderweireld would be great business for Tottenham Hotspur
It seems that the Belgian defender is definitely on his way out of Tottenham Hotspur.
It seems as though Toby Alderweireld is on his way out of Tottenham Hotspur.
It is being reported by Het Laatse Nieuws today that the Belgian’s contract talks with Spurs have been halted.
With the Belgian out of contract in the summer of 2019, Spurs will attempt to cash in on Alderweireld now.
A fee of £43 million has been mentioned for the player, who reportedly wanted a wage to match that of Virgil van Dijk at Liverpool.
Tottenham’s stance of not paying out big wages to their top players has often been criticised. But on this occasion, the Lilywhites are doing the right thing.
On his day and when fit, Alderweireld might be the best centre-back in the Premier League. However, it has been a long time since the Belgian had such a day.
Most of this season has seen Alderweireld on the treatment table. When he has played, it has always seemed a precursor to his next injury.
Given his age and contract situation, the injury record gives Alderweireld three strikes. At £43 million, Tottenham would be getting a fantastic deal for their defender.
The report from HLN claimed that Alderweireld wanted a wage in the region of €180,000-a-week (£160,000-a-week). Such a sum is vast for a player with his current issues.
The fact Spurs were reportedly willing to go as high as €120,000 (£105,000) per week shows that Daniel Levy tried to keep the Belgian, even doubling his current wage, but Alderweireld is on his way.
It will be a shame for Spurs but breaking the wage structure at the club for an injury prone defender would not have been a wise move.
Eventually, Tottenham might have to be more lenient with their wages, but that should be saved for the likes of Harry Kane, Dele Alli or Christian Eriksen.
Tottenham should take £43 million for Alderweireld and persevere with the likes of Jan Vertonghen, Eric Dier, Davinson Sanchez and Juan Foyth.
Alderweireld’s next club will hope they can keep the Belgian fit long enough to reap the rewards of his potential signature.
Ronald Koeman admits he wanted Memphis Depay at Everton
But would Everton have benefited from his arrival?
Ronald Koeman is about to kickstart his managerial career with the Dutch national team. It is his first role since getting sacked by Everton and his first foray into international management. Speaking about his new role he discussed the former Manchester United winger Memphis Depay.
Speaking to the press, as reported by Football Oranje, Koeman revealed that he had tried to convince Depay to join Everton whilst he was manager at Goodison Park:
“I invited him to my home last year, when I wanted to get him to Everton. That did not work, he went to Lyon.”
Depay was with Manchester United at the time, where he had struggled to live up to his potential. Instead of joining Everton he headed to Lyon in France in a deal reported by the Telegraph to be worth £16 million.
So have Everton missed out?
Depay’s struggles to settle in English football are well known. Since his move to France things have certainly improved. Depay has scored 18 goals since his move to France. However, considering he scored 28 goals in his final season at PSV prior to his United switch it is still not a massive amount.
In the time he has been in France those 18 goals have come from 61 games. His form has been good at Lyon but certainly not to the standard many expected of him when he made the move to Manchester United.
That said, £16 million today in today’s market is not a lot of money. Looking at Everton’s team, having Depay playing from the left side would have been a massive bonus for Koeman, and now for Sam Allardyce.
Depay still has plenty to improve upon and hopefully Koeman can get the best out of him during his time as the Netherlands boss.
As for Everton, they did not get their man and paid a lot more for the man he would be battling for first-team football Yannick Bolasie – who has not yet been a hit at Goodison Park.
So, all things considered, Everton probably should wish Koeman had managed to convince Depay into a Merseyside switch last January.
Victor Fernandez furthers Newcastle United first-team claims on Spain tour
The 19-year-old impressed as he featured against Belgian outfit Royal Antwerp.
Newcastle United recently travelled to Spain for a training camp as they attempted to deal with three weeks without a competitive fixture.
Rafa Benitez is an experienced manager and he will have realised the danger that such a gap could pose for his team, especially when it came to the fitness of the squad.
He arranged a training camp in his homeland, which culminated in a unique 135-minute match against Belgian side Royal Antwerp.
It consisted of three periods of 45-minutes, which allowed the manager to give playing time to the fringe players in his squad ahead of the run-in.
Although it gave the opportunity to experiment, only two youth players made the trip to Spain.
Nathan Harker was the back-up goalkeeper as both Rob Elliot and Karl Darlow were struggling with injuries.
The other, Victor Fernandez, caught the eye of Newcastle supporters watching.
Fernandez will be encouraged about further involvement with the first-team, as he was the only young outfield player to feature against Royal Antwerp.
That is a sign that Benitez considers the 19-year-old as one of the best prospects currently with the club.
The Spaniard joined the club just over a year ago from UE Cornella.
The signing went under the radar, but Benitez has an extensive scouting network and he obviously saw something in Fernandez.
Although he is predominantly a winger, he can play anywhere across the front-line is required.
Soon after joining the club, he spoke of not wanting to aim for too much too early when talking to the Newcastle United official club website:
“My purpose was not to make an impact really quickly, because I’m new and I have to get used to English football – it’s really different from Spain. I hope, little by little, I can keep doing good things here.”
Considering this was very quickly after his move to a new country, Fernandez’s words show maturity and show a glimpse into his character.
Benitez is a thorough manager who likes to know everything about the players that he brings to a football club.
There must have been something about the Spanish winger that made the Newcastle manager believe that he could adapt to English football.
There are no guarantees in football when it comes to young players fulfilling their potential.
However, the fact that Fernandez was taken on the mid-season tour to Spain suggests that he is on the right path.
He would have been offered guarantees about a route to the first-team squad and his involvement against Royal Antwerp will have been a reward for his progression since moving to St James’ Park.
He came on for the final 45-minutes and showed flashes of his ability.
There was some nice interplay with Dwight Gayle that resulted in the teenager having a shot on goal.
His trickery and direct style caused problems for his marker and he continued to excite those watching when the ball was his feet.
There is more developing for him to do before he is ready for the first-team in competitive action, but his performance against Antwerp was a positive one.
There is clearly talent there and he will be a player to follow over the coming seasons.
Newcastle are at the early stage of their development under Rafa Benitez and that will mean opportunities are there for young players.
Fernandez could have the ability to take his.
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